Okay – last one... and time to give up my secret. This story started as an exploration of Harry's view of Petunia and how that predisposed him to believe his first impressions of everyone else. Petunia is NOT a very nice person, but she's not a particularly evil person, either. Everyone has the capacity to do nasty things... and I really wanted to explore WHY Petunia was like that – and perhaps, more importantly, give Harry a little understanding that things are not simply black or white... JKR has given rather broad hints that there is more to Harry's aunt than we have so far seen, and I do not believe that that much bitterness comes from having a "special" sibling! I really believe that Petunia was part of this world, and her rejection of Harry is significant to her rejection of all things magical.
Now – for the secret. This story has only ever been considered (by me) a prequel to the main event – a full length (I heard that, Shotgunn) seventh year fic. I tend to rush through my stories, so this is going to be a lesson in patience for me – and I'm going to desperately try to make it more than 30 chapters. There will be the possibility of death and dismemberment for those of you who have begged me for that... there will be adventure, there will be confrontations with Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself... and there will be blatant, mushy, cliched fluff between our favorites... not just Harry and Ginny (although that will definitely be the main ship... I AM me, after all!), but Ron and Hermione, as well. And perhaps now that Remus has put the past behind him we may even see him exploring his options! The key here is, this is not the end... it is merely the beginning, the "warm up" if you will. I am giving it an "R" rating, and please, if this bothers you, just enjoy this prequel and move on... because I do believe that the seventh year is going to be rather darker – and while JKR will have to keep hers reasonably innocent, I – thankfully – will not be so restricted.
I love doing this – I love writing, and in JKR's world, I have found characters who are both fun and rewarding to write, and reviewers who make it worthwhile, feed my muse, and push me to be better. Thank you, thank you, thank you - each and every one of you - for making me stretch myself in my writing, and learn new things about myself as I do.
Chapter Thirteen: Rainbows
Petunia Dursley walked next to the lake, and Remus Lupin watched her closely. She didn't carry herself in the same way. She used to be regal... prideful. But years had turned that into stiffness.
She wasn't the same Petty that he, James and Sirius had delighted in teasing mercilessly, who had looked down her nose at them, whom Lily had gently protected from their more rambunctious needling. Whom he had cared for... she wasn't even the same Petty who had walked away from him.
She'd changed. He supposed that life with Vernon Dursley would change anyone. It made him wonder what kind of person Harry would be without his years of living and growing in the Dursley household.
"Petunia?" he called as he approached, not wishing to startle her. She stilled and watched him come, looking into his eyes until he stopped in front of her.
"I'm happy with my life, Remus."
Remus was mildly surprised at this strange greeting, but nodded, understanding. They were past polite greetings now.
"I know you are."
"I love Vernon... he's not an easy man to love... but I do."
She looked out over the lake. "Lily was ashamed of me."
"No. Lily loved you. She wanted you to be as happy as she was. She just couldn't see that happening with Vernon Dursley."
"She didn't know him."
Remus looked at her for a moment, then sighed. "Go home, Petty. Live your life. Forget we exist. Harry will be fine."
Tears came to her eyes. "Don't hate me, Remus."
"I don't hate you, Petty. I'm disappointed in some of the choices you've made. I'm angry for Harry, because he didn't deserve what you gave him... I'm sorry for you."
She turned alarmed eyes up to look at him.
"He's a wonderful young man, Petunia. He has the best of Lily in him... but you've missed that entirely by following Vernon's lead."
"I'm beginning to realize that."
"But you've made your choices."
"So go," Remus said. "Go home."
Nodding, she took one last look at him before turning and making her way back to the house.
Harry turned towards the door of the den, which had just opened. The late evening light from the windows showed Dumbledore standing there, in his wizards robes, and behind him, looking surly and unkempt, stood Severus Snape. Bringing up the rear, was Minerva McGonagall.
"Good evening, Harry," Dumbledore nodded.
Harry's head turned quickly at a soft sound to see his aunt, her face white, place a hand on the wall to steady herself.
Aunt Petunia knew Snape? How on earth...
"Petunia... you are indeed looking..." Snape's eyes flicked to Harry, the expression there telling Harry that this was about the last thing Snape wished Harry to witness. Harry looked on with interest. "...well."
"Aunt Petunia? Are you...?"
"Fine, Harry. I'm fine. Just... surprised. Professor McGonagall... how... nice to see you again."
Minerva McGonagall's eyebrows rose in an expression that Harry had seen many times. She was especially fond of using it on first and second years who were stretching the truth when explaining why they were out of their dorms in the middle of the night.
"Petunia," Dumbledore said, "I assume that you are prepared to leave now?"
"Let us... go then."
"Harry?" Aunt Petunia's voice trembled. "I... be careful, and... here."
He turned, looking at his aunt. She held out something. When Harry took it, he realized it was the magical chain she'd worn around her neck for years. The one with the Evans family vault key.
"I... your mother would be proud of you, Harry. So would Daisy."
"Thank you," he said automatically, staring down at the chain in his hand, then looking up at her solemnly. "Thank you, Aunt Petunia."
"Come," Dumbledore took her arm. "It is time to go."
"Of course... I... yes." She nodded nervously.
"Place your hand on my arm... Severus, the bags. Here we go, then."
For a moment, Harry's aunt wavered as though being viewed through a water glass... then, with a loud pop, they were gone.
Ginny pulled him close, hugging him silently. He clung to her. He was at peace with the fact that Petunia Dursley was gone from his life. He had Ginny, and her family... and the family he had made here. He didn't need more.
"Harry?" Molly's voice came from the doorway. Harry looked up to find Molly and Arthur entering the room, Ron and Hermione looking in from the hall.
"Thank you..." Harry nodded, reaching for the cup of tea she offered him.
It was a full five minutes before Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall returned. Snape followed a moment later.
"Molly, Arthur... how nice. Molly, I would adore a cup of tea, do you think...?
"Of course, Albus."
"Sir?" Harry looked between Dumbledore and Snape, and wondered what was going on. And why had Snape taken longer to return than the others?
"Headmaster, if you do not require my..." Snape began, only to be interrupted by Professor Dumbledore.
"Oh, no, Severus. You are part of this now, too. Your presence is most definitely required."
Harry thought he saw a look of surprise on Snape's face, but he hid it quickly beneath a scowl, and then stalked to the window where he stood with his back to the room.
"All in good time, Harry. All in good time. Ah, thank you, Molly..." he accepted a steaming cup from her. "Harry, I must ask you some questions, and it is very important that you answer them as truthfully as you can."
"Of course, Professor, I wouldn't lie..."
Snape snorted. Harry glanced his way to find him still standing with his back to the room, hands clasped behind him, and his long black robes brushing the floor. Harry turned back to Dumbledore.
"Harry, in the years that you lived with the Dursley family, did it ever occur to you that they, any of them, might have... magic of their own?"
Harry laughed. "No, no sir, not at all."
"Looking back, can you recall any time at all, any thing that might have happened, that might now be explained by the use of magic?"
"No, sir. Nothing."
"What about your cousin, Dudley? Ever any indication that he was..."
"Dudley Dursley is not a wizard, sir. I can assure you of that."
Dumbledore's gaze was riveted on him for a moment, before he suddenly turned away.
"Headmaster, we should..." Snape began.
"Yes, of course, Severus. Harry... we must tell you what happened at the Dursley family home just now..."
"Aunt Petunia...? She's okay?" Harry's attention was suddenly fully back on the headmaster.
"Yes, yes, Harry, she's fine. However..."
Harry looked from Professor Dumbledore to Snape.
"What did he do to her? Uncle Vernon... he's done something to her..."
"A memory charm has been performed on Dudley and Vernon Dursley, wiping you from their memories. If they ever do think about Petunia having had a sister, and that that sister had a family, they will believe that you died with your parents in a car accident some years ago."
"She's fine, Harry... she requested that we leave her with her memories. She has agreed that Vernon and Dudley would not benefit from remembering your presence, but she... requested to be left alone. And I will respect her wishes."
Harry sighed. Perhaps it was close to being over, now.
"Hey, there," Ginny wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. "What are you doing out here?"
"Thinking," he said. Her sleep-warmed body pressing against him felt good in the pre-dawn chill – she must have just come from her bed.
They would return to Hogwarts today for his seventh and final year.
"It's been an... eventful summer."
"That it has," he felt her grin against his back. Turning, he pulled her close and hugged her tightly.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"For what, exactly?"
"For helping me to see that it's not all black and white. Nothing is black or white... it's all shades of grey."
"Oh, Harry," she looked up at him with shining eyes. At that moment, the sun broke the horizon and she smiled, and he caught his breath, realizing once again how very lucky he was that this beautiful witch had chosen him.
"It's not!" Ginny said softly, her eyes searching his. "It's not grey, Harry. It's a rainbow."
QueenVictoria: Hawaii? How I WISH I were in Hawaii... it's darned cold here today!
Nimbirosa: I'll be sending out good thoughts for those sniffles to go away permanently.
Merlindamage: Isn't it, though? I hate Vernon.
ImaQuidditchFan: Second thoughts? Hmm... there's a possible plotline. Really, though, would I do that to you? To him? To Ginny? Well, yes, probably... but I don't expect so. Their relationship may not be smooth sailing (come on, would that be ANY fun?) but they are together, indeed!
Allison: I would assume that Dumbledore was sure she wasn't coming back, if he called off the search... wouldn't you?
Thunder's Shadow: I always have the story completely planned out.. then my muse laughs in my face and we go in whatever direction she deems necessary for as LONG as she deems necessary. I start every story with a grid... and work up what is in each chapter, in each theme, and go from there. I generally end up with about three times as many chapters, some things get expanded on, some things get added, and some things, which I think are really good ideas in the planning stage, never make it to the end product. That's the sound of my muse laughing hysterically at me.
SaerrySnape: See? I live for that – making people say things they'd never DREAM of saying!
Lourdes: But he does it so charmingly!
Jouve25: That's exactly right!
Hye Em Yes: Hey, good way to look at it! Mmmmm, chocolate...
Weselan: I'm assuming that it's a reasonable thing to do, wiping memories of the existence of a person... after all, the aurors do memory modification on muggles all the time, right?
Bklynbecca: Harry is seventeen in this. He's changed. He's been through a lot, knows he has more to go through, and is tired of having to deal with that and the added pressure of Dumbledore not being truthful with him. He's tired of it, and he's had enough. In canon, up until now, we've seen an adolescent. I truly believe that in the next two Rowling books, we're going to see a very different Harry... or at least, the beginning of a new Harry emerging.
And to all the others, thank you: Wolfsscream, Kordolin, DavidMPotter, Starnat, JT, Lady Urquentha, MysticRuby, CannonFodder, IndiaInk, Kazziedal, Nightwing509, Bobboky, RyougaZell, MedievalWoman, GeeUnit